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Wings Over Scotland



The SIX key facts about GERS 76

Posted on August 24, 2016 by

We originally wrote this article in March, in response to the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (better known as GERS) figures for 2014-15. We’ve updated it to take account of events since that time, of which there’s been one rather major one.

Today saw the publication (just five months after the 2014-15 GERS) of the 2015-16 stats, which are again triggering a convulsive orgy of “BLACK HOLE!” articles across the media, as every Unionist in the land falls over themselves to portray their own country as a useless scrounging subsidy junkie without actually using the exact words “too wee, too poor, too stupid”.

And once again, everywhere you look there’s a “Proud Scot” screaming about how the figures – showing an essentially unchanged “deficit” despite an almost £2bn fall in oil revenue – destroy a case for independence that those same people have spent most of the last four years stridently insisting never existed in the first place.

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So let’s recap the truth about Scotland’s financial books. Because for all the complex arguments, mad graphs ludicrously pretending Scotland is a less viable nation than Greece or Latvia or Cyprus or Malta and endless arrays of incomprehensible charts and tables, there are (now) only six things you really need to know about GERS.

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And so it begins 88

Posted on August 24, 2016 by

“Black hole” grows by £2.4bn in the space of four minutes:

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Hopefully we’ll soon have the sort of totally definitive clarity we got last time.

Gazing into the black hole 93

Posted on March 09, 2016 by

Economics: The art of explaining why all of your models fail to accurately predict either the future or the past.

It’s the time of year again when everyone glances at the first page of a dense booklet of complex economic data and immediately starts using it to make wild forecasts and proclamations despite the long-known problems with doing so.

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So it’s also, once again, time to try looking a little further to tease out some details that others might have – let’s be generous here – accidentally missed.

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The shorter version 122

Posted on March 09, 2016 by

This year’s GERS figures will be published today, purporting to illustrate the financial relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. With oil revenues down, they’ll undoubtedly provoke an orgasmic explosion of glee among Unionists crowing about “black holes” and how Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid to survive alone.

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We’ve already run an extremely detailed explanation of all the flaws and booby-traps in GERS, but of course we’re a pro-independence website and we would say that. So instead we’ll direct you to someone who’s very much NOT on our side.

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The Pish Gallop 133

Posted on December 15, 2015 by

We’ve spoken a number of times before on this site about the “gish gallop” or “swarm of wasps” debating technique, in which a person attempts to bury their opponent under such an overwhelming tsunami of false, misleading or nonsensical claims in a short space of time that they can’t possibly debunk it all.

The Urban Dictionary gives an example of the form:

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Faced with such a rushing torrent of drivel, it’s almost impossible for an opponent to know where to start in order to begin to even scratch the surface (if you can scratch a torrent). And that brings us directly to Severin Carrell’s article in today’s Guardian.

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The limitations of GERS 296

Posted on November 06, 2015 by

Last week the BBC treated viewers to a Question Time hosted in Edinburgh, where a right-wing economics journalist from MoneyWeek magazine called Merryn Somerset Webb explained to a somewhat disgruntled Scottish audience why the government were right to bail out the bankers, but not steel workers.

It capped off an interesting week but to see why we’ll have to rewind a few days and revisit the work of an amateur Unionist blogger of our unwelcome acquaintance.

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The amateur blogger in question has been garnering a fair amount of attention lately from straw-clutching Unionist hacks for his “analysis” of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (GERS) figures, in which he purports to show a sizeable deficit in the economy of an independent or “full fiscal autonomy” Scotland.

In essence, the analysis amounts to dumping all the GERS summary tables into a Microsoft Excel graph, adding the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast for oil revenue, and pointing to a resulting £9.1bn gap between Scotland’s public spending and its total revenue.

This, he asserts, is in addition to Scotland’s share of the hefty deficit the UK currently runs. His conclusion, shouted loudly and often by every angry Unionist on Twitter, is that the government of an independent Scotland – which tellingly they always assume to be an SNP one – would either have to drastically cut public services or raise taxes to fill this “black hole”.

It’s an interesting piece of analysis. Or it would be, if it wasn’t total nonsense.

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A poverty of imagination 185

Posted on October 24, 2015 by

We don’t follow many Unionists on social media, because you end up wasting your day arguing pointlessly with a lot of people who are never going to change their minds and getting in a bad mood. But we’re told they were all very excited about an article in yesterday’s Daily Record.

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Penned by the paper’s political editor Davie Clegg, it’s a long diatribe about how the fall in oil revenues has created a black hole which now means Scotland is – stand by for a surprise! – too wee and too poor to be independent.

So far so meh – it’s not like it’s the first time we’ve heard that record played, after all. But as you can see from the image above, there’s also quite an interesting challenge printed in giant capitals at the foot of the page. We’re not in the Scottish Government, but it’s a rainy Saturday so we thought we might have a go.

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The magic number 205

Posted on June 15, 2015 by

For the last month or so, the Unionist parties have briefly enjoyed the opportunity to taunt the SNP in the Commons over Full Fiscal Autonomy, challenging the party to bring forward proposals and accusing it of being afraid of the policy it campaigned and won on in the election. The Nats called the bluff, and today got the unsurprising result.

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The reason given by Secretary of State David Mundell – who declined to appear on today’s edition of “Good Morning Scotland” to defend or explain the decision – was that FFA “would cost every family in Scotland £5,000”.

And we thought that figure had a rather familiar ring to it.

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The best and worst of times 183

Posted on June 14, 2015 by

With scarcely a moment’s pause for breath or reflection, the Unionist polity and media has seamlessly switched its focus to the elusive beast that is “Full Fiscal Autonomy”.

(The SNP thankfully seems to have swiftly dumped the silly and short-lived attempt to rebrand it “Full Fiscal Responsibility”.)

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Having deemed the anti-independence “Project Fear” strategy a success because it won the referendum – seemingly oblivious to the fact that what it actually achieved was to turn a 30-point lead into a 10-point victory, at the cost of the annihilation of Unionist MPs in Scotland – the exact same tactics have been deployed against FFA.

And the main problem with that is that there are in fact two FFAs. And the Unionist side is fighting against the wrong one.

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Tuesday night and Wednesday morning 217

Posted on October 22, 2014 by

The Scotsman’s lead story last night on the left, and the same page today:

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Scottish journalism, there.

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Juxtaposed with U(K) 70

Posted on March 15, 2014 by

At this week’s First Minister’s Questions, Johann Lamont banged repeatedly on a drum that the Unionist parties never tire of thrashing like an Orangeman in marching season – the notion that an independent Scotland couldn’t afford to live as it does now and would have to raise taxes or cut public spending.

Over and over again Lamont demanded the First Minister say which he would do if Scotland voted Yes, implying the choice wouldn’t have to be made inside the Union:

“If Scotland were outside the United Kingdom, I ask again: how would the First Minister pay for that loss in revenue—by cutting services or by raising taxes?”

Ms Lamont’s colleague Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is about to embark on a tour of Scotland, flitting from city to town to village like some demonic ghostly apparation out of “Tam O’Shanter”, frightening Scots with blood-chilling tales of “black holes” and, most especially, unaffordable pensions.

Sounds like we better stay in the safety and security of the UK, then.

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The Captain’s Abyss 190

Posted on November 30, 2013 by

The realisation that the No camp’s reaction to the independence White Paper has been based on a massive, scarcely-believable misunderstanding/misrepresentation of reality has thrown a new light on all sorts of things from the past week.

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The most recent “BLACK HOLE!” story is a case in point.

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